Latest Posts Subscribe to this blog RSS

What We Need To Do To Stimulate Growth In The UK Creative Sector (Part 2 of 3) by @TheAgencyUK

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 16.24.54

Access to Talent:

1. Emerging From a Company

Many of the creative start-ups in the region have been set up by experienced individuals in search of autonomy. Some start with close partners – even married couples – with synergistic talents.

Paul Cross and Richard Godfrey (iPrinciples) left Microsoft to set up iPrinciples in 2003, having had a complete experience (including an entrepreneurship course at Cranfield) within the firm, whilst Saman Mansourpour (The Agency) moved from London. Nicky Robertson (Mendip Media) left the BBC having seen the opportunity in online alongside TV, seeing it as the way to break down the monopoly held by broadcasters.

Many creative start-ups open their doors with good business contacts and projects already in place. However, young entrepreneurs will sustain a low-risk lifestyle – often no mortgage, and savings in the bank. Nicky Robertson (Mendip Media) noted that the difference between freelancing and start-ups is the need for very sophisticated and authentic teamwork, and investing in the people.

Greg Ingham (Mediaclash) left Future Publishing once it had experienced significant growth, and set up in partnership with his wife. “I found myself getting a little institutionalised – I looked around the room and they were all really great people, but some were accountants, some lawyers, and I thought there’s no-one here that writes or designs or codes, and it’s time to move.”

Coming from big companies, both Greg Ingham (Mediaclash) & Saman Mansourpour (The Agency) said there’s a real danger in over-engineering your start-up, though this does provide a resilience when things get tough “Grit and hard work is essential – but you need a bit of luck as well, and at any point we take our eye off the ball, you can see it on the balance sheet.”

Saman Mansourpour (The Agency) says their plan was to get to critical mass as quickly as possible. Most will grow to 10-12 people some will “step-up” to a larger scale. But scale requires financial resilience, that often needs significant investment.

Small companies can still be very effective in this sector. Dave Kelly (Storm Consultancy) started up with “a healthy dose of naivety”, took advice from many people when starting up, and noted the power of operating “OODA Loop” to outmanoeuvre larger companies (Observe – Orientate – Decide – Act) with feedback at each stage.

The close relationship between the people in a creative start-up means questions can be more direct, and ideas-building agile and fast. They can be light on procedure, and need a little luck.

Simon Coles (The Keep) says a crucial point in his decision to set up was when he couldn’t realise the full potential income for his work, and realised clients were also becoming resentful of the charge out rates.

Being able to see a large-scale trend that creates a new opportunity is the key stimulus for people leaving a corporate environment to start up. Nicky Robertson (Mendip Media) saw the rise of non-broadcast video, and set up directly in response. The speed of change is often slower than the evangelists predict, but the change has been delivered.

2. Starting Up Straight From University

The south west is well-supplied with University incubators, business support etc., and increasing business-awareness in University media courses is a fundamental aim of the Skillset Tick accreditation.

Dave Jarman (Bristol University) noted that inside Bristol University the theme has moved from Education about Enterprise to Education through Enterprise – it’s intertwined, not an add-on.

“It’s different for different individuals – some have a huge amount of confidence and you don’t have to add much, you just have to put them in touch with the right people. Others resist the terms enterprise, entrepreneur, and don’t think of themselves as business people. It’s all about translating the terms, making them more palatable to the students.”

Dave also noted “Start-ups are essentially the whole of business in microcosm, so students can get used to the modelling tools like Business Model Canvas that they will use later – but they’re coming to us for future employability.”

Adam Powell (Bath Spa University) amplified this – they should start planning from the earliest opportunity. University is a safe place to try out ideas with business potential, and many students start up some commercial activity alongside their studies. It’s also the place where people hunt for talented peers, create good team working relationships, and can try things out – from playing a new sport to forming a band.

“A lot of students doing creative subjects don’t ever think they can become freelancers or run businesses, so there’s a behaviour change required to think about your creative practice in a commercial way – it’s not just about start-ups, it’s what employers are looking for in their graduates.”

Ben Trewhella (Opposable Games) stated that the key is to increase the porosity of the Universities – acknowledging the pace of change in the industry, getting students out to see working practices first-hand.

Although the seeds are planted at university, Dave Jarman (Bristol University) felt that “the companies actually develop when people are 24-35 years old, so there’s a challenge for Universities to maintain the relationship with late 20’s early 30’s alumni.”

Dave Jarman (Bristol University) identified that “there’s a problem with parents – they want their kids to get a job when they graduate – and also with the graduates in that they expect an idea could be the next Facebook. They have good ideas, but also a naivety that comes from a lack of first-hand experience within business.”

Adam Powell (Bath Spa University) pointed out that all regions lose graduates to London & the South East, but that the area has great graduate retention & employment – “over 90% of graduates are getting jobs, the biggest challenge is underemployment, where the jobs they get aren’t fully utilising their skills, because the opportunities don’t exist within local companies.”

What We Need To Do To Stimulate Growth In The UK Creative Sector (Part 1 of 3)

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 15.41.42

The creative industry sector is one of the largest wealth generators for Bristol, Bath and the surrounding area, with both cities having been recognised by NESTA as having established networks, and being ranked 2 of the 9 top creative cities outside London.

Given the international success and reputation of some of the creative firms that reside in the south west of England, the SW LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and CBI (Confederation of British Industry) have placed growth in the creative sector at the heart of their economic development strategy.

In the first of four roundtable sessions commissioned by the SW LEP and organised in partnership with Bristol Media and Creative Bath, we seek to understand the business dynamics that exist within the UK’s creative sector, what spawns start-ups and the environment they need to thrive.

The UK and SW Creative Industry Landscape

Saman Mansourpour (The Agency) said that “within the UK’s creative industry there is clear separation between product and service offerings. Service businesses have always enjoyed a “low barrier to entry”, but whilst start-ups can get to proof-of-concept fast, they need management input, funding and infrastructure to get to the next level and deliver at scale.

Paul Cross (iPrinciples) noted that the US model for venture capital investment is far better than in the UK, having taken 8 companies from Bath to San Francisco, looking at incubators and meeting venture capitalists. “Investors here think mainly about revenue, but if you fail in the States the question is ‘what did you learn from that failure?’”

Richard Godfrey (iPrinciples) noted that there is a lack of understanding that start up projects will “fail” in purely monetary terms, but this is vital to innovation, experimentation and learning. Framing objectives and brokering relationships with funders is a key role.

The creative sector inhabits a dynamic landscape where technology, knowledge and the will to innovate combine to create great opportunities for small creative businesses. Companies should expect to expand and contract, regularly pause to review how things are, what’s missing, and what inputs they need. That’s the time to look for external interventions in the form of training courses, new staff, and non-executive directors. So in summary the creative sector requires one essential lifeline, and that’s regular access to a hotbed of talent.

Does Big Data mean Big Mobile? by Matt Rees @TheAgencyUK


Firstly, what does “Big Data” actually mean?

Big Data is, unsurprisingly, a big subject, but in its broadest term it refers to the increasingly huge amount of information that is available to us today. This is primarily driven by the way consumers are embracing the internet as part of their everyday lives. Financial services have been using transactional data to drive marketing for years. Often data from external sources, such as lifestyle data, is overlaid to improve the power of predictive models, and this structured data is increasingly being generated online. However the internet is also generating a wealth of less structured data including content consumption, social media, blogs and even digital photos that can also be harnessed to improve our understanding of consumers. The challenge of capturing, combining and analysing all this information underpins the big data phenomenon. Simply put, we can improve our understanding of consumers by viewing them from the different perspectives offered by different types of data e.g. what products have they bought, what are they doing online, what are they saying in social media, who are they sharing content with etc.

How much “Big Data” is actually out there?

The very first web page was created by CERN in 1989 in order to manage the huge amounts of data being generated by particle physicists. This was the foundation of the worldwide web. Ironically this initiative to provide insight into the smallest particles known to mankind has also provided the catalyst for the largest generation of data in the history of mankind. It’s estimated that there are over 1 trillion web pages in existence worldwide, with new data constantly being uploaded to many of these pages. And the pace of change is even more mind boggling. In 2010 Eric Schmidt, ex- CEO of Google suggested that “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”.

What are the implications of “Big Data” and “Mobile” combined?

Mobile will help Big Data get much bigger, very quickly, by providing new types of more granular data. Over half the UK population now use a smart phone. With the introduction of 4G, it’s likely that in the next few years mobile will be the dominant form of web access, and therefore the dominant driver of Big Data. The mobile connectivity revolution means that in effect, everyone will carry most of the world’s information in their pocket all day every day. Harnessing all the data uploaded and downloaded by mobile devices has the potential to provide a complete view of what consumers are doing, when and where, 24/7. Additionally mobile gives 24/7 access to these consumers enabling marketing to play a much more valuable and engaging role in their lives.

What should we do with this “Big Data” once we have it?

Many of the emerging Big Data practices are based on how we can use all this data to drive consumer insights. Consumer insights are nuggets of information that allow us a better understanding of their motivations, behaviours and attitudes, which we can use to provide a better service, present more relevant products or just increase the amount we sell to them.

This is a hugely powerful business and marketing tool, leading many business leaders to elevate data to the fourth factor of production – alongside land, labour and capital.

How can we use “Big Data” it effectively in marketing?

1. By extracting insight

Data is of no use to anyone unless meaningful insight can be derived from it. This is a big challenge. Without meaningful insight, capturing and analysing Big Data is just a cost to a business. In this respect we should all be getting excited about Big Insight not Big Data. As a marketing communications agency this is key to what we do, and where our perspective may differ from the IT industry – data is only a means to an end. Extracting and interpreting insight into effective marketing initiatives to drive value is the ultimate objective.

Putting the necessary systems and resource in place to manage Big Data is expensive, and organisations will need skilled analysts who only focus on the insights that matter. Even before Big Data, many Financial Services companies have struggled to maximise the value in the data they already hold, let alone having the means of combining it with less structured data. So, as with all marketing, we would suggest that the approach to Big Data is driven by clear business objectives, with particular focus on improving value for the customer. This will help organisations align their investment in Big Data with the potential returns that it can bring.

2. By improving customer targeting

Deriving meaningful insight should provide an unprecedented level of customer targeting. Inevitably, this level of personalisation can be used to acquire more customers and sell more services. However we see the likely effect of Big Data in this area as being evolutionary as the industry has been using data modelling effectively for some time. However utilising Big Data will be akin to putting existing predictive models on steroids.

But Financial Services companies should proceed with caution.  Trust in this sector is at an all time low, and people are wary of sharing their personal information with Financial Services brands so organisations need to avoid appearing too familiar, intrusive, and overly sales focussed.

Undoubtedly there is a big opportunity to drive value in acquisition and retention but we see this as a relatively tactical benefit. The bigger opportunity lies in helping to re-define the relationship the industry has with its consumers.

3. Stimulating customer engagement, value and differentiation

Together Big Data and Mobile provids a revolutionary opportunity for driving competitive advantage.. Offering customers value beyond a simple 2-dimensional transactional relationship, FS brands can build engagement and a true relationship that will help re-establish trust.

In the US, anonymous transactional data provided by banks is now being aggregated and used to make recommendations about restaurants, places to visit, and even products to buy. It is becoming possible to make purchase recommendations based on an individual’s location derived from their mobile GPS signal. Some FS businesses are pulling together all their customers individual financial information into one database. Mobile access allows a complete up to date view of an individual’s financial position whenever and wherever they are.

These are just a few examples of how FS brands can add value for consumers. By getting consumers more engaged with their brands, and with the category as a whole, hopefully more consumers will become financially competent. This could help prevent incidences of mis-selling and build a better understanding of the essential role the industry plays in our lives. Building a greater appreciation, will help close the trust gap, and hopefully re-define the relationship from brand inertia to real brand loyalty.

Big Data can provide the insight, and Mobile the means to deliver, an endless number of applications that consumers really value. All that’s needed is some lateral thinking. And this brings me to my final point. Big Data and Big Insight are no substitute for thinking. The right experience, skill and intuition will still be required to deliver effective marketing solutions. However Big Data can be a facilitator to help re-instate lost trust, save customers time, offer better value and service, and ultimately transform the commercial success of many Financial Service organisations.

Does 4G free brand advertising? by @TheAgencyUK

The dust has settled on the bidding process for the new 4G network in the UK with the main protagonists, Everything Everywhere, Vodafone, O2, Hutchinson 3G and Niche Spectrum Ventures (BT), shelling out a combined £2.34 billion for access rights. Not an insignificant sum you might say, but still only around 10% of the auction of the 3G network in 2000 and over £1 billion less than the Treasury had forecast.

I sold out to Big Data by @TheAgencyUK

There’s a lot of talk about ‘Big Data’, it’s certainly the 2013 buzz with firms EMC2, IBM, Oracle even Adobe speaking louder than most.

But what does it actually mean?

When you get past the spin, hype and bluster, Big Data is actually a simple proposition. It’s about accessing and consolidating data from multiple data sources, and delivering insights that improve the way an organisation delivers products and services to consumers. So what’s so ‘big’ about that?

Near Field Communications: uses for exhibitors and exhibition stands

By Louise Walters, CEO at Priority Exhibitions

Near Field Communications are going to have a huge impact within events and exhibitions. The new Google Nexus S phone has been fitted with an NFC chip and there are rumours that the iPhone5 will also have it. So this technology won’t be widespread for the next few years, but it’s important to understand its potential.

With NFC enabled, two mobile devices can communicate with each other by placing them very close together. This will be incredibly useful by enabling data exchange very easily and very quickly.

As Sales Continue to Fall, Could Mobile be the Saving Grace?

At a time when sales typically increase, the latest news is that retail sales figures for January are in fact, the second worst since 1995. There’s nothing like a touch of reality to make retailers come down with a bump as 2012 gets into full swing, but that is the face of modern retailing unfortunately.

Digital Society Gives Us Reach, But That’s Not a Sale

Forget Big Society, if you haven’t already, and embrace Digital Society, because that has been the actual focus for many people over the past three years.

How well is the events industry using social media?

Louise Walters, CEO of exhibition stand design company Priority Exhibitions, talks through five key ways she advises clients on how to really get the most from their exhibition stands to promote themselves at exhibitions and conferences.

Like any industry, the events and exhibitions industry is a mixed bag when it comes to adopting new marketing methods and new technologies. Some exhibitors and exhibition organisers are using Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms really well, while others are really missing out.

It Takes Two to Tango by @TheAgencyUK

With the predicted onset of Social Commerce, aptly named sCommerce by the principals at IBM, we are about to witness the next technological revolution. Goodbye CRM, goodbye traditional direct marketing and hello social commerce.